Some of our favorite California beaches are the not-so-obvious ones; here are 10 of the best.
1. Bean Hollow State Beach, Pescadero, California – Visitors can beachcomb and explore tide pools brimming with anemones, crabs, and colorful purple sea stars, among other marine life – or wander down a wonderful nature trail. Beware of swimming; there are rip tides. 17.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay and three miles south of Pescadero on Highway 1.
2. Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach, California – This place has a lot of appeal, with tide pools, sandy coves and a historic district of vintage coastal cottages built in the 20s and 30’s. Not to mention that it has been the location for many films such as Treasure Island (in 1934), To Have and Have Not, and Beaches, just to name a few. 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 Phone: (949) 494-3539.
3. El Matador, Malibu, California – Dramatic rock formations at the bottom of the steep access stairway, a narrow beach, and rough waters usually keep the crowds away from this pristine spot. That, of course, is why we like it. 32350 El Matador Beach Rd, Malibu.
4. Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California. Just off of Highway 1 is Moonstone Beach, a gorgeous stretch of beach with great tide pooling. The southern end of the beach also happens to be a great place to find the milky white semi-precious moonstone itself. Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria, California.
5. Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, California. A hidden gem just ten miles from San Diego, this secluded beach is known for its hidden coves and great surfing. You have to take a small, steep trail to get there, which includes holding onto a rope at one point. The beaches at Sunset Cliffs Park are generally accessible only at low tide, so it pays to check the tide tables if you don’t want to get stranded. Sunset Cliffs, San Diego
6. Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena, California. You have to climb down a ladder to get to this hidden gem in Mendocino, but it’s well worth it to see the unusual “bowling ball” rock formations that it’s known for. The parking area on the west side of PCH is located at mile marker 11.4 or 11.5. If it’s full, cars park on the side of the road, perpendicular to PCH. There are two trails there, one to the south that goes down to Schooner Gulch, and a northern trail that goes to Bowling Ball Beach. This is not a great beach for small children or the elderly because of the difficult descent.
7. Julia Pfeiffer, Big Sur, California – Secluded, hard to find, and exquisite, this beach is known for its purple sand, and has been the setting for more than a few intimate weddings (for those in the know). It’s just off Highway 1 down Sycamore Canyon Road. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Hwy 1, Big Sur (Mile Marker MON 45.64 ).
8. Table Rock Beach, Laguna Beach, California – One of the most beautiful beaches in Laguna, this beach is known for its rock formations in the middle of the cove, along with marine life. Once you descend a wooden staircase, you’ll find yourself amidst tall bamboo grass that lines the rear of this cove. On the north side are tall rock wall formations, accentuating the waves breaking right on the shore. To the south loom sandstone walls, and rock outcroppings with a view through the arch onto Thousand Steps Beach. Table Rock Dr Laguna Beach, CA 92651
9. Little Corona, Newport Beach, California – Just near the popular Corona del Mar State Beach, you can access this hidden beach if you are willing to hike. Take the lifeguard-access road down to the cove and prepare for paradise. Poppy Ave. at Ocean Blvd., Newport Beach.
10. Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach, California– Great snorkeling with abundant sea life, unique reef structures, and kelp forests are just a few reasons why this beach is so special. 989 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach.